NYCHoops #9 ranked Holy Cross High School were able to advance to their first ever CHSAA class AA city championship game on Thursday by upsetting #2 ranked Rice in a thriller, 64-62, on Wednesday evening at St. John's University.
Senior guard Blaise Ffrench's bank shot plus a foul with 5.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winner for the Knights, which sends them into Sunday afternoon's championship game to take on Christ the King.
The Flushing school was able to hang with Rice early, as Holy Cross beat the Raiders down the floor in transition a number of times to convert easy lay-ups.
Virginia-bound senior Sylven Landesberg held the early hot hand for Coach Paul Gilvary's squad as he scored 14 of his team's 19 first quarter points. The Knights were able to hold momentum heading into the second stanza up 19-17.
Coach Gilvary's squad buckled down defensively, as they forced Rice into shots late in the shot clock. Holy Cross cushioned their lead with a Blaise Ffrench three pointer with 5:31 to go in the first half which gave the Knights a 24-17 lead. However, Rice wouldn't fade easily as a Jeff Harris three-pointer capped off a 9-2 Raider run to tie the game at 26 all. Un-committed senior forward Dorvell Carter stepped up for the Raiders offensively, as he knocked down a number of key shots to keep Coach Maurice Hicks' squad within reaching distance. The Queens school was able to end the half with the lead and momentum in their favor as they grabbed a 34-28 lead heading into the locker room. The 6'6" senior Landesberg led all scorers with 20 points in the first half, while Blaise Ffrench chipped in with 7 points. The senior Carter led Rice with 9 opening half points.
Frustration began setting in for Rice, as UConn-bound point guard Kemba Walker found himself in foul trouble and junior Durand Scott picked up a technical foul with 3:45 to go in the third quarter. A Sharif Mayer put-back with 37 seconds to play in the third quarter gave Holy Cross a 48-42 lead. However, Rice junior phenom Durand Scott knocked down a long three-pointer at the third quarter buzzer to cut Holy Cross' lead to 48-45.
The Raiders were able to find more opportunities for dribble-penetration as they were able to go toe-to-toe with their fellow CHSAA School. Rice's chances took a major blow with 2:00 to go in the fourth when junior Durand Scott fouled out of the game. A lay-up from Ffrench tied the game at 60-60, which was followed by a Landesberg jump shot from the top of the key which gave Cross a two point lead. Kemba Walker responded with a jump shot of his own with 16 seconds left to once again tie the score.
In a blaze of glory, Ffrench took a pretty feed from Landesberg in the final seconds and got fouled while finishing an acrobatic lay-up with 5.2 seconds in the game, which put much of the crowd in a frenzy. After missing the following free throw, Rice pushed the ball up the floor and the 6'2" Walker managed to get in the lane off the dribble. However, he began to slip and threw up an off-balance prayer which fell short of the rim, giving Holy Cross a memorable 64-62 semifinal victory. Landesberg led all scorers with 30 points, while Ffrench contributed 17 points in the winning effort. Drexel-bound sharpshooter Chris Fouch led the way for Rice by scoring a quiet 17 points in the loss. Dorvell Carter chipped in with 13 points.
Following the game, Coach Paul Gilvary reflected on the contributions of often-unheralded senior Blaise Ffrench. "I've been frustrated because I really feel that he's (Ffrench) being under recruited," said Gilvary following the game. "He guarded Kemba Walker for nearly every possession of the game…and then he made big baskets," added the coach of the Queens school.
Holy Cross will play NYCHoops #5 ranked Christ the King at Fordham University on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 for the CHSAA city championship.
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